I have met and known many people over the years. The diversity of people and their personalities make our journey in life more colorful.
Some folks stand out more than others. Some aspects of character are more important than others.
But, there is one character trait that is difficult to overlook; greatness.
The greatest man I ever knew was an older Southern gentleman named Jack. This is his story.
Jack was born in McMinnville, Tennessee to two loving Christian parents. He derived his work ethic from his parents, and grandparents, who were coal miners in the 1800’s.
Jack grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and went to Ramsay High School where his athletic talent blossomed. He would become the Alabama State Champion in tennis.
Soon thereafter, he was accepted to Vanderbilt University. While at Vandy, he put his athleticism to work on the football field. In 1937, he became the starting quarterback for the Vanderbilt Commodores. His college football career would be nothing less than outstanding.
As his college and football career were winding down, storm clouds of war were forming over Europe and the South Pacific. Soon, German Panzer Divisions began to roll east into Poland. Jack enlisted into the Army/Air Corp and became a pilot. He was stationed in North Africa and fought the Germans and Italians in the Anzio attacks. He flew across the Mediterranean to deliver British troops much needed airplane propellers. He flew these extremely dangerous missions at a height of no more than 35 feet in order to stay underneath the highly advanced German radar system. He dropped paratroopers into Italy and Germany. He also brought back German prisoners to holding camps.
At one point during the war, he had to make an emergency landing in Spanish controlled Morocco. He was taken as a POW for many months. I only know this from being told by his friends. Like most POW’s, he never mentioned this experience.
After his release, he flew some of our most talented war commanders. General Patton would be the first. He once told me that Patton lived up to his reputation as a hardened determined general.
On numerous occasions, he flew General Eisenhower and considered him a friend. Little did the 26-year-old pilot know that he was flying the future president of the United States.
Soon thereafter, he would be assigned to become General Mark Clark’s personal pilot.
Upon returning from the war, he joined a manufacturing company in west Georgia. He would work his way up to becoming its Chairman of the board. He stayed with this company until he was well into his 80’s.
Jack was part of the Greatest Generation. But, there is more.
My first memory of meeting him was when he put a small putter in my hand when I was 5 years old. Why would he take an interest in golf with such a small boy?
Because I was blessed to be Jack Worley’s first born grandson.
Most surprisingly, in 43 years, I have not heard anyone say a negative thing about Jack Worley. Not a single word. I cannot say that about anyone I have ever met.
But, Jack Worley possessed a character trait that is perhaps the most difficult for anyone to have; humility.
Papa Jack did not share any of his accomplishments with me unless I asked. I would not know the whole story until after he passed away.
Jack Wills Worley was the greatest man I ever knew from the Greatest Generation.